Last week during a Change Makers workshop, our guest was Mandy Simpson, Chief Digital Officer for New Zealand’s Z Energy. Guests are invited not to give a presentation, but rather to bring a question and host a conversation centred on that question. Mandy’s question was “How can we ask better questions?”


The drive behind her question is about moving our organisational cultures beyond a reliance on expertise and having the answers. If our value depends on us being right, rather than being curious, we’re more likely to double down on holding a particular point of view to show that we know our stuff.


The problem is, when the agenda is about transformation, expertise isn’t enough.


As an energy company that’s traditionally relied on fossil fuels, Z faces a future where it needs to continually evolve to stay relevant. Yet evolution doesn’t start by having the right answers. It starts from having the right questions. If Z is to contribute meaningfully to a thriving economy, curiosity must come before clarity.


I believe this is true for any organisation or sector that’s looking to evolve.


A coalition of the curious

Mandy’s question ignited our conversation. One of the most compelling ideas we kicked around came from one of our members, Kate Forsyth: create a ‘coalition of the curious’. That’s a group of people that are known and valued for asking different questions. Questions that uncover assumptions, shift perspectives and generate possibilities. Invite these people into projects, into executive team deliberations, and into teams to change the game.


As I reflected on the idea of having coalitions of the curious, I realised that that’s exactly what the Change Makers community is. At its core, the programme is designed to help people tap into and amplify their innate curiosity and apply it productively to intractable problems. When you have a small group of passionate, committed people who have the skill and will to ask different questions and experiment with new approaches, you can truly change the game. They can help us to create a sense of unhurried productivity by taking us into the Reflection and Ideation boxes, where new thinking emerges.


A case in point: over the past two years, Wellington City Council has invested in three cohorts of its staff to attend the Change Makers programme. These people are valued by the Executive team as a resource that can be deployed to help accelerate change initiatives across the Council. They’re the coalition of the curious that can bring different questions that lead to new possibilities and new courses of action. The leadership team is truly giving kudos to the curious.


Game-changing questions

Here are three game-changing questions that you might like to try out:

  • “What don’t we know that we wish we did?”
  • “What are we assuming?”
  • “How might we be holding onto our expertise too tightly?
  • What other questions could unlock new insights for you and your team?


Other resources

Here are some more pieces related to this idea:

Where’s Your Focus? Why a ‘possibility focus’ is more powerful than a ‘problem focus’ 

How To Be Curious A series of short articles on how to create a culture of curiosity

Lead With Questions The power of asking questions first






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